It often seems like every major movie these days is a sequel to something. Sometimes audiences show up for these sequels enthusiastically. Other times, they wonder why these movies were even made in the first place. Yet somehow, in this age where seemingly anything can get a sequel, there are still some follow-up movies Hollywood refuses to make. There might be passionate filmmakers chomping at the bit for a green light — to say nothing of fans waiting for these movies — but for some reason or another, the 15 sequels on this list have had no such luck getting made.
Some of these formerly promised sequels got cancelled because of the box office. There are fans for these properties, but not enough to make these sequels worth the cost. Other times, however, it’s the blockbuster hits that everyone would see that still, for whatever reason, end up dead. In those cases, it’s usually either the passage of time (people moving on to other projects and losing interest) or contentious studio politics (legal issues, executive meddling) that’s to blame. Perhaps at some point in the future some of these projects will come back from the dead. For now, however, that seems unlikely, leaving fans to wonder what could have been.
15. MAD MAX 5 AND 6
Mad Max: Fury Road is such a perfect movie that it seems impossible for George Miller to top. Then again, nobody expected Fury Road to be anywhere near as great as it was to begin with, so if there’s one thing Miller knows how to do, it’s defy expectations. He’s written scripts for two potential sequels. Unfortunately, these sequels are unlikely to ever see the light of day.
The big obstacle to getting more Mad Max movies is the legal battle between Miller’s production company Kennedy Miller Mitchell and Warner Bros.
Miller alleges WB executives interfered with Fury Road‘s production, attached Steve Mnuchin as an executive producer and Brett Ratner as a financier without his company’s approval, pressured him to change the ending and failed to give him a promised bonus. WB alleges that Fury Road went over-budget, negating the conditions of Miller’s desired bonus.
14. ROGER RABBIT PREQUEL
Robert Zemeckis has worked on two different Who Framed Roger Rabbit? prequel ideas. The first idea, a World War II-set movie called Toon Platoon, is officially dead. Steven Spielberg couldn’t bring himself to produce a WWII-themed comedy after making Schindler’s List. Another prequel script titled Who Discovered Roger Rabbit? is still in Development Hell, always mentioned every few years but never produced.
Zemeckis says the script is great, but licensing issues are too difficult to pull off. The first Roger Rabbit‘s success was ironically its undoing in regards to any sequel hopes. The movie making so much money means the different cartoon studios demand even more money for licensing characters, making negotiations impossible. The rivalry between Disney and Warner Bros. makes this extra difficult even in our current age of mass crossovers.
13. NEILL BLOMKAMP’S ALIEN
Neill Blomkamp has been through cycles of success and disappointment. His breakout feature District 9 was a Best Picture nominee and he continues to do interesting short films, but Elysium and Chappie significantly underwhelmed. Nevertheless, there was a lot of genuine anticipation to see what he’d do with the Alien series. His planned sequel was going to ignore Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection and bring back much of the original cast from Aliens.
Ultimately Ridley Scott had other plans for the series, focusing on his prequel films. After Alien: Covenant bombed, the future of the series as a whole is in question. Blomkamp has moved on from the project. He’s shared some concept art online and wishes he could show more; he tweeted “I wish there was a way for fans to see some of what we had designed.”
12. HELLBOY 3
After winning Best Picture and Best Director for The Shape of Water and making a new deal with Dreamworks Animation, Guillermo Del Toro is finally having some good luck. He deserves it; for a while, it seemed like every other project he touched was cursed. He spent two years in pre-production on The Hobbit before getting fired. Then there was his passion project The Mountains of Madness, which despite attaching James Cameron as producer and Tom Cruise as the star, couldn’t get greenlit.
And, of course, there’s Hellboy 3. For a while it was a big “maybe,” but now it’s looking like a firm “no.”
Neither of the first two films was that successful in theaters but made money on DVD. As the physical media market crashed, the lack of that economic safety blanket made studios less likely to consider finishing the trilogy. In early 2017 it seemed like Hellboy 3 was almost getting off the ground, but creative differences with creator Mike Mignola killed it. Hellboy is now being rebooted.
11. JOHN CARTER 2
This is a case where the reasoning behind the lack of a sequel makes complete sense. John Carter went absurdly over-budget, bombed in the US without doing well enough overseas to make up for it and received some extremely savage reviews. There’s no real reason Disney would even consider a sequel. And yet, people to this day will still ask director Andrew Stanton if there’s any chance of him adapting more of Edgar Rice Borroughs’ Barsoom books.
There’s good reason people still want more in this series. John Carter is a better movie than its reputation makes it out to be. While hurt by a needlessly overcomplicated structure and a middling lead performance, the supporting characters, world-building and visuals are great. It was a passion project for Stanton, and if he got the chance to make more, he’d go for it.
10. THE SUBTLE KNIFE
Tired: begging Warner Bros. to release the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League. Wired: begging Warner Bros. to release the Chris Weitz cut of The Golden Compass. The 2007 adaptation of Philip Pullman’s beloved but controversial fantasy novel was a mess, but all its problems can be attributed to an editing hackjob. Weitz wrote a great script, but New Line chopped up the final film to pieces.
Most frustratingly, New Line cut out the whole ending, claiming test audiences found it too dark and confusing. The promise was that the ending of The Golden Compass would become the opening scene of the sequel, The Subtle Knife. Hossein Amini was already writing a script for The Subtle Knife when the the first movie bombed at the US box office and all sequel hopes were dashed. Fortunately, Pullman’s novels are getting a second chance on-screen with a BBC adaptation.
9. THE VEGA BROTHERS
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or even Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse), Quentin Tarantino envisioned his films taking place in the same universe. Connections in his work are loose, mostly limited to fictional brands like Red Apple Cigarettes and Big Kahuna Burger, but there’s at least one major connection between characters from different films: Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction and Vic Vega from Reservoir Dogs are brothers.
For a while, Tarantino was planning a prequel to Dogs and Pulp titled The Vega Brothers, focusing on these two characters.
The film is never going to happen mainly because too much time has passed. Tarantino moved on to other projects, and Michael Madsen and John Travolta are now way too old to reprise their classic roles. Maybe you could recast, but Tarantino’s plate is full between next year’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and an upcoming Star Trek movie. He also says he’s getting close to retirement.
8. BUCKAROO BANZAI AGAINST THE WORLD CRIME LEAGUE
On one level, it would be perfect if Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League remains just a tease. The big joke of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension was simply dropping you into the world of this pulp hero with zero background on his convoluted continuity, so the sequel never actually existing adds to the joke. Still, Buckaroo Banzai developed enough of a cult following that there is an audience who’d line up for the sequel opening night.
The big reason there’s never been a sequel is that the rights are a mess. Original production company Sherwood Productions infamously got caught up in an embezzlement scandal. MGM owns the theatrical rights but has been reluctant to do anything with the property given the Sherwood mess. Kevin Smith started on developing a TV series, but back out as MGM got in a legal battle with original creators Earl Mac Rauch and Walter Richter.
7. DIVERGENT: ASCENDANT
This is a classic case of Hollywood greed biting itself in the butt. The Divergent book series was a trilogy and should have concluded with three films. However, a trend emerged in the early 2010s of splitting up YA novels into multiple films to make more money. This worked for Harry Potter, but even with a series as popular as Hunger Games, these questionable splitting decisions began to backfire.
With Divergent, it blew up in everyone’s faces. Divergent was never a super popular series, and splitting the final book into two movies killed enough interest that the third movie bombed and the fourth movie never got made. There was talk of sending the fourth movie straight to TV, but the actors all dropped out. Recently there’s been discussions of turning Ascendant into a miniseries on Starz, but fans are justified in being disappointed with how their series got sabotaged.
6. GLADIATOR 2: CHRIST KILLER
Just from the title of this one, you might have an idea of why this didn’t get made. From that same title, you probably also have an idea of why this sequel sounds so intriguingly crazy. Any sequel to Gladiator would seem like an odd idea, given that the hero Maximus dies at the end of the first film.
Even though Maximus died, Russell Crowe asked musician Nick Cave to write a script for a sequel anyway.
Cave’s script involved Maximus being freed from Purgatory by the Roman gods on a mission of revenge against Jesus Christ. Crowe wasn’t a fan of this plot. Cave, however, relished going so completely nuts on a script. “I enjoyed writing it very much,” he told Marc Maron, “because I knew on every level that it was never going to get made.”
5. FANTASIA 2006
Certain segments of the aborted Fantasia 2006 project, focusing on world music, actually got finished. One by One was an extra on the Lion King II DVD. The heartbreaking The Little Matchgirl was included on the Little Mermaid DVD. Lorenzo got an Oscar nomination. Also nominated for an Oscar was Destino, the most impressive short of the bunch, Roy Disney’s completion of an experimental collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali.
If so many great shorts were already complete, why cancel Fantasia 2006? Studio politics. Michael Eisner killed traditional animation at Disney while simultaneously threatening the studio’s partnership with Pixar, moves which infuriated Roy Disney. Fantasia 2000 was Roy’s baby, and with Roy resigning from his post in 2003 in protest of Eisner, Fantasia 2006 was was quickly scrapped.
4. DREDD 2
Screenwriter Alex Garland planned the 2012 Dredd movie to be the first in a trilogy. Those who saw the film mostly loved it. Alas, not many people saw it. Blame a disconnect between hardcore comics nerds and general audiences. The nerds knew the original Judge Dredd comics were cool and clever, and were excited to see this property done right. The general public, however, knew the character only from a terrible Sylvester Stallone movie and had no reason to be excited for a reboot.
Dredd has developed more of an audience through streaming after bombing in theaters. An animated spin-off appeared on YouTube in 2014, and star Karl Urban entered talks in 2017 to star in a TV series. After the let-down of Dredd‘s box office, however, Garland swore off franchise-building, intentionally wrapping up Annihilation‘s story in one film rather than planning to adapt the sequel novels.
3. DICK TRACY 2
Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy was one of the more successful comic book films of the ’90s, but wasn’t the Indiana Jones-level blockbuster that Disney was hoping for. In 2002, Tribune Media Services tried to get back the rights from Disney, but in a way which violated Beatty’s original licensing deal in 1985.
Beatty, who wanted to make a sequel, was unable to negotiate the licensing mess, and sued Tribune.
The ensuing legal battle lasted the better part of a decade, with Beatty finally granted the rights to make a sequel on March 25, 2011. Since then, however, there’s been a lot of talk but little actual movement in regards to the Dick Tracy sequel. At this point, it’s probably been too long. Beatty might want to make it, but who else does at this point?
2. DAVID CRONENBERG’S THE FLY SEQUEL
This one is odd but intriguing. David Cronenberg’s The Fly was a self-contained tragedy which never cried out for a sequel. There was actually a The Fly II in 1989 directed by make-up artist Chris Walas, but most fans barely remember that one today. Renny Harlin tried to make a third film in the ’90s. The most intriguing proposed Fly sequel, however, came from Cronenberg himself.
In 2009, he started on a script he described as “a strange lateral, let’s say oblique sequel.” At this point Cronenberg had become more of a straightforward drama director, so a proposed return to his body horror roots definitely sounded interesting. Alas, by 2012, the project died. It seems the script was too weird for FOX to give it a big budget and too epic to be workable on a small budget.
1. SPIDER-MAN 4
Spider-Man 3 was a troubled movie, but most of its flaws (namely being too overstuffed and the forced usage of Venom) can be blamed on executive interference. After that rough experience, Sam Raimi still wanted to direct a fourth Spider-Man movie, using Mysterio and The Vulture as villains, but this time on his own terms with less interference. The head honchos at Sony didn’t accept this, and so they rushed the Amazing Spider-Man reboot into production.
At this point, there’s no burning longing left for Raimi’s Spider-Man 4. The series has been rebooted yet again, this time more successfully, with Spider-Man: Homecoming, which also featured an excellent portrayal of The Vulture. Still, in the history of comic book movies, this is an enticing “what could have been.”
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